ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - When the 2020 Bond Fire exploded in Orange County's canyon country, fueled by 50 mph winds and forcing the evacuation of 25,000 people, it was the type of unpredictable weather event the Orange County Fire Authority had trained for. Now, they've given FOX 11 a look at their preparation.
"Out here we're dealing with a dynamic environment where we have weather that's rapidly changing at times, and things such as wind, relative humidity, really impact the way a fire behaves, and makes it very difficulty on us at times to predict, and to fight," said OCFA Captain Greg Barta.
The OCFA showed FOX 11 how the agency simulates an initial attack against a wildfire, which includes constructing hose lines with tools like shovels, laying lines of hose, and working closely with Constructing hose line with hand tools like shovels, utilizing hose lines to lay progressive hose lays, and coordinating with agency helicopters.
All of that happens while crews are wearing equipment that can way as much as 60 pounds, according to OCFA Fire Engineer Hunter Pedrosian.
While the crews are out in the field, they battle heat, bee stings, even rattlesnakes. During remote fires, firefighters sleep on the dirt between shifts, and must continually train.
"All of our firefighters go through a 16-week academy where they learn all the various components of fighting fires, and brush fires are certainly a part of that," said Barta. "We do annual training, and it's a significant portion of our job."
The OCFA has 78 fire stations and is unique in how it operates in an urban interface — meaning an area with both cities and wilderness. Firefighters said that despite the wet winter Southern California saw this year, there is potential for danger ahead, and they'll be ready.
"We've had a lot of rain which is good," Barta said. "We needed that in the state, but that also makes the vegetation grow, and now it's had the opportunity to dry out… and that dry, warm weather is drying out the hillsides and that does bring potential for significant brush fires."
For more information on the OCFA.org on the agency and its work.